Posted by Literary Titan
Limbo is a story of a man who accidentally becomes the Grim Reaper and is the most highly revered killer in Limbo. What was the inspiration for this original and fascinating idea?
I wanted to write something that Clive Barker might like. Only 50% joking. The other 50% started with a simple sentence that didn’t mean much: the Grim Reaper searches for a soulmate. Everything spun out of that. The name Grim the Reaper popped into my head eventually, which made him feel like a starting point for a character and led to a bunch of meaty questions:
“Well, what if the mythical figure of Death was just one of many?”
“What if Grim used to have a life? Yes, he was John Grim. What the hell happened to him?”
“Who or What made John Grim this way, why did It create this perverse society?”
One led to the next and it all just made me really curious. I wanted to answer those questions by telling myself the story because I’d always dreamed of writing a horror novel and it seemed like the kind that wouldn’t bore me into not finishing it. I wanted to write something that to me would be strange and different, poetic at times and gruesome at others, something that felt big and conceptual. The kind of story I’d want to read. So I crammed a ton of my inspirations in there. Nerds like me that have a keen eye will pick up the overt references or subtle nods to Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Candyman, Hellraiser, Preacher, Nightbreed/Cabal, Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End…there’s a bunch more. Just little treats for horror fans inspired by the same stuff as I am.
The TL;DR version — There’s a lot of autobiography in this book, and this excerpt of the still-living John Grim holding his first freshly completed manuscript sums it up:
What he recalled most vividly about that simple moment was the pride, the heft of the pages in his hands, heavy with the monster that lived and breathed inside of them. The buoyancy of seeing his insides spilled in black ink on white pages, dreaming of the story being passed lip to lip.
I felt that the tone of the novel was dark and I appreciated the grim consistency. Did you plan the tone and direction of the novel before writing or did it come out organically as you were writing?
Darkness in all its forms is just fascinating to me. It’s the same reason heavy metal pleases my ear and happy major key music grates on me. Happy, clean cut endings, perfect heroes that are morally incorruptible, all that kind of stuff bores me at best, irritates me at worst. But I still believe in a form of the lighter side of things. A big part of the overall concept of Limbo before I put pen to paper was balance. I wanted the emotional moments to matter because they were born out of darkness. So I tried to push both sides as far as I could go. I know the results aren’t for everyone, because there are some pretty messed up scenes in Limbo, but there’s also this tragic story of two people who truly loved each other and fell into this insane situation that I think has a satisfying, unconventionally beautiful ending. So, definitely intentional, but thankfully it all came together pretty organically, while eating mostly non-organic chips. Chips were a big part of writing Limbo.
Grim is not the only character in Limbo. There are also friends, strangers, and even deities. What was your favorite character to write for?
I’ll have to cheat. It’s a split between the Maker of Limbo and Dora, John Grim’s sarcastic and strong re-incarnated soulmate Dora. Spoiler alert, but Limbo’s physical landscape and the Maker of Limbo are one and the same, cobbled together with endless miles of dead flesh and filled with an insane, vast web of consciousness made up of countless distinct personalities. I pushed myself to make the different physical forms the Maker appears in surprising, sometimes shocking, sometimes funny or sad. Writing this single, incomprehensible entity/deity with this assortment of both coherent and incoherent voices was incredibly fun. Dora I loved just as much because I wanted her to be a real badass. Though Grim the Reaper is the titular character searching for her, Dora is the real hero of Limbo. Brave, unrelentingly honest and endearingly bitter, someone who does what needs to be done, no matter the consequences. It’s hard to say more about her without ruining the surprises she brings, but suffice to say I wish Dora was someone I knew in real life.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be published?
I’m splitting my time between two projects. One is a big collection of charcoal illustrations of monsters, demons, ghouls and oddities I wish I saw in my sleep. The other is a big collection of one sentence horror stories called Brief, Horrible Moments. Aiming for late 2016 or early 2017, but here’s three stories from the collection so far that are on the ‘lighter’ side of the spectrum:
It laid its hands on my shoulders, still staring at me from across the lake.
Pulling the long black hair out from the drain didn’t bother me until I realized it was attached to something.
My father was causing a scene as usual, slurring his words and attacking pew after pew of terrified mourners who had gathered for his funeral.
This is a story of a man who accidentally becomes Grim the Reaper, the most highly revered killer in Limbo. A place beyond time and space as we know it where psychopaths compete for perverse honour and status as they carry out their deathly duties. As Grim struggles to hold onto the memories of the life he’s lost, he discovers that the insane being who shaped him (and the course of existence itself) may have sinister plans for the one thing he values most. In Limbo, the end is only the beginning.
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